Detroit mafia holds crowning affair for Jackie the Kid in traditional eastside mob stomping grounds
Underworld sources confirm that an inauguration ceremony for newly-appointed Detroit mafia boss Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone, 63, has taken place since the beginning of the year in a Motor City restaurant, similar to the one that was held for his predecessor Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco, 87, at a posh hunting lodge near Ann Arbor exactly 35 years ago last month.
More than one highly-placed street source, tells The Mob Insider that the ceremony, attended by all the crime family’s capos and high-ranking members, took place at an eatery in Eastern Market, which seems appropriate considering the region’s gangland-rich history and the Giacalones’ roots there specifically, both dating back more than 100 years.
Reports of Tocco, the longest-tenured LCN don in the United States, stepping aside and tabbing Jackie the Kid his official replacement – following a two-year stint as acting boss –, surfaced in the spring.
Locations mentioned as possible venues for the inauguration were Vivio’s Bar & Grill and The Roma Café or both.
Eastern Market is an area of Detroit long steeped in mafia culture, seeing numerous Detroit gangsters headquarter their operations out of the dual commerce and warehouse district on the city’s eastside all the way back to the start of the Twentieth Century.
Detroit’s first-ever Italian organized crime faction, the Adamo mob, led by Vito and Sam Adamo, was based in the Market during the late 1900s and early 1910s. Both Adamo brothers were shot-gunned to death there in 1913, after their near-decade reign over the city’s rackets, as was one of their predecessors and protégés Sam Gianola seven years later in 1920.
Veteran Detroit mobster Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, Jackie the Kid’s dad, ran his crew out of Eastern Market from the 1960s until the 1990s, when he was jailed for the final time in his lengthy underworld career in the expansive Operation GameTax bust.
Jackie the Kid’s uncle and Billy Jack’s older brother was, Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, the syndicate’s forceful and fearsome street boss from 1960 until his death of cancer in 2001 (under indictment and awaiting trial in the same GameTax bust that ensnared his kid brother). The pair came up as youngsters in the Market, working for the area’s produce kings, Salvatore (Black Shirt Sam) Ciarmitaro and Joseph (White Shirt Joe) Ciarmitaro – both suspected to have been members of early-era Detroit LCN and the Giacalones’ uncle on their mother’s side.
Giacomo Giacalone, Tony and Billy Jack’s father and Jackie the Kid’s namesake and grandfather, was a legit fruit peddler in the Market throughout the 1910s, 20s and 30s.
For a large chunk of the 1970s and 1980s, Billy Jack headquartered his crew out of Farm Fresh Produce on Riopelle Avenue, using it as a breeding ground to school Jackie the Kid on the ways of the mob.
Constantly paranoid of government surveillance, Giacalone wouldn’t discuss business in the car, office or his house. He preferred using walk-and-talks and chats in the giant Farm Fresh freezer. The Feds couldn’t bug the freezer, due to the fact that the recording equipment would be disabled by the extreme low temperature, but they could bug the telephone poles on the street outside the business where Billy Jack would hold many of his meetings.
Jackie the Kid took his first major pinch and federal racketeering conviction in a 1983 case that spawned from those bugs that caught him and his dad discussing mafia activity and their collective fear of a coming government onslaught.
“The G is all over the place lately, they’re looking to make a bust…….and quick,” the younger Giacalone is heard telling his father in the summer of 1982. “I can’t make a move without one of these cocksuckers on my tale.”
The recent coronation of Jackie the Kid brings to memory Jack Tocco’s inauguration in June 1979, held at the ritzy Timberland Game Ranch in Dexter, Michigan, a suburb of Ann Arbor and photographed by a group of trailing FBI agents on routine surveillance duty. The ceremony to crown Giacalone boss is said to have most likely took place in March or early April, according to street sources.
One member of the local underworld informed The Mob Insider that the ceremony itself took place afterhours in the basement of Vivio’s and concluded with a late-night meal at the historic Roma Café, Detroit’s oldest restaurant, serving homemade Italian food to residents of the Motor City for 125 years. Per the source the festivities were officiated by consigliere Dominic (Uncle Dom) Bommarito and senior capo Antonino (Tony the Exterminator) Ruggirello, Jr. and the infirmed Jack Tocco attended the affair to give his blessing.
“Everyone got together, about two dozen of the top guys, and Dom and T.R. (another nickname for Ruggirello) told the room that this was a new beginning and that Jackie has the power now,” he said. “Then they all went over to the Roma Café and there was a big spread and everyone came over and congratulated Jackie and kissed Jack Tocco’s ring, who was sitting next to him. Jack can barely walk, but he still gets off on the respect thing. He’s always wanted people to bow to him and this was probably the last time it’s going to happen in an official capacity and he really drank it all in and enjoyed the
adulation and fawning.”
Bommarito, at 79, is the Family’s most-tenured “made” man currently in active duty, receiving his button in a 1950s ceremony conducted by legendary Motor City mob don Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli. He’s been Tocco’s consigliere for the past six years, replacing Black Jack’s brother, Anthony (Tony T) Tocco, who stepped down from his post in 2008 and died of natural causes in 2011.
Ruggirello hosted Tocco’s inauguration in 1979, around the same time Tony the Exterminator, 80, and his older brother Luigi (Louie the Bulldog) Ruggirello were promoted to captains.
The Ruggirello brothers owned the Timberland Game Ranch and were co-capos of a crew that looked after the Ann Arbor and Flint areas back then. Louie Ruggirello died of cancer in the late 1980s. Their father was Antonino (Big Tony) Ruggirello, Sr., a longtime driver, bodyguard and confidant of Tocco’s father, deceased don, William (Black Bill) Tocco, the Detroit mafia’s founding father.
Trying to account for the Timberland Game Ranch gathering at trial on the Operation Gametax arrest in 1998 ,- faced with photos of the event as evidence -, counsel for Jack Tocco unsuccessfully argued that the meet-up of widely-recognized local mob czars was to say goodbye to Big Tony Ruggirello, dying of cancer (Ruggirello passed away in 1980 and Tocco and most of his administration were convicted in the Gametax busted in the late 1990s and early 2000s).
Vivio’s used to be owned by Dominic (Big Dom) Vivio, Billy Giacalone’s driver and bodyguard, acting as a hangout for much of the Giacalone crew, because it was located down the street from Farm Fresh Produce. It’s now owned by relatives of Big Dom’s. Vivio currently lives in Pittsburgh in retirement, reputedly having gotten into a feud with Jack Tocco that led to his “shelving” a few years back. Big Dom was seen by FBI surveillance agents shuttling Billy Jack around town in the hours after labor boss Jimmy Hoffa vanished in July 1975. Billy Giacalone (died in 2012) is considered a prime suspect in the famed Hoffa disappearance and murder, possibly the triggerman.
The Roma Café, also located down the street from the former Farm Fresh Produce building, (but in the other direction; north opposed to south), has been a popular wiseguy hangout dating back to the Adamo Gang days. During his visits to the Motor City, singer and well-known mob associate Frank Sinatra used to set up shop at the Roma Café, eating dinner there every single night he was in town, entertaining huge entourages that included celebrities, pro sports figures and mobsters alike.
Mike Carone, a retired FBI agent that worked the Detroit crime family for three decades and was present outside of the Timberland Game Ranch during Tocco’s crowning ceremony in 1979, isn’t shocked the syndicate followed a similar pattern in how they anointed Jackie Giacalone Godfather (hopefully for their sake, minus the presence of camera-toting Feds)
“The scenario fits, it seems about right in how they would handle the change-over in leadership,” Carone said. “I’m sure they took precautions to try to make sure what happened last time didn’t happen this time. Jackie is pretty cautious. Jack Tocco and his crew (Dom Bommarito and Tony Ruggirello) double that, so I’d say only the main people in the Family were present. They probably took a vote and toasted Jackie and that was that. It’s more pageantry than anything, everyone has known that Jackie was getting the reins for years now. This just makes it official.”